DESPITE the slump in new developments causing an inflated unemployment figure on the Gold Coast, a report from Australia’s peak residential building industry body shows a continued national shortage of skilled labour.
The Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) Austral Bricks Trades Report reported its Trade Availability Index improved modestly in the March 2011 quarter, from -0.10 to -0.07. A negative reading indicates that trades are in short supply.
Executive director of HIA’s Industry Workforce Development Nick Proud, however says any ‘mild oversupply’ of skills could see apprentice job losses and future shortages amplified.
“Ongoing shortages across occupations have contributed to a housing industry bereft of skills to construct sufficient dwellings to meet the requirements of Australia’s growing population,” he says.
“With 2011 expected to be a considerably softer year for housing, we may see a repeat of 2009 when trade availability temporarily comes into mild oversupply and apprentice jobs are lost.
“Dampened employer confidence today would leave the housing industry hamstrung down the track when workforce ageing, resource sector factors, and recovering housing activity creates renewed demand for skills.
“That’s why budget 2011 needs to be the mechanism for increased investment in skills and training being made now to ensure not only that the industry can retain its existing skilled workforce, but that the labour pool is boosted in readiness for the future.”
Locally, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show a widening gap between national unemployment (4.9 per cent) and the Gold Coast’s unemployment level (8.1 per cent).
Gold Coast Logan Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) president Steve Harrison (pictured), highlights a lack of opportunities in the construction sector as a major contributor to the figure.
He is urging Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) to better appreciate the spin-off benefits a viable construction industry had for the wider Gold Coast economy.
“A surge in unemployment to 8.1 per cent sends a clear message. We need job creating opportunities, and development can provide that during the delivery and operational phases,” says Harrison.
“We’re all for economic diversity, but at a time of severe downturn, our core established industries of construction and tourism are where we can achieve significant immediate results.
“The Council advocates triple bottom line sustainability in its decision making – that is economic, social and environmental sustainability. But we don’t think that economic activity and jobs are considered as strongly as the other principles.
“If the job creating benefits of development are appropriately considered, we will begin to see more people employed directly through construction, and more people in other sectors like retail employed indirectly, through an injection of money into the economy.”
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